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Sheridan Libraries Awarded $20 Million Grant

October 2, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACT: Brian Shields
410-516-8337
bshields@jhu.edu

The Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries have been awarded $20 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build a data research infrastructure for the management of the ever-increasing amounts of digital information created for teaching and research. The five-year award, announced this week, was one of two for what is being called “data curation.”

The project, known as the Data Conservancy, involves individuals from several institutions, with Johns Hopkins University serving as the lead and Sayeed Choudhury, Hodson Director of the Digital Research and Curation Center and associate dean of university libraries, as the principal investigator. In addition, seven Johns Hopkins faculty members are associated with the Data Conservancy, including School of Arts and Sciences professors Alexander Szalay, Bruce Marsh, and Katalin Szlavecz; School of Engineering professors Randal Burns, Charles Meneveau, and Andreas Terzis; and School of Medicine professor Jef Boeke. The Hopkins-led project is part of a larger $100 million NSF effort to ensure preservation and curation of engineering and science data.

Beginning with the life, earth, and social sciences, project members will develop a framework to more fully understand data practices currently in use and arrive at a model for curation that allows ease of access both within and across disciplines.

“Data curation is not an end but a means,” said Choudhury. “Science and engineering research and education are increasingly digital and data-intensive, which means that new management structures and technologies will be critical to accommodate the diversity, size, and complexity of current and future data sets and streams. Our ultimate goal is to support new ways of inquiry and learning. The potential for the sharing and application of data across disciplines is incredible. But it’s not enough to simply discover data; you need to be able to access it and be assured it will remain available.”

The Data Conservancy grant represents one of the first awards related to the Institute of Data Intensive Engineering and Science (IDIES), a collaboration between the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, and the Sheridan Libraries.

Choudhury noted that although the impetus for the Data Conservancy was the need for large-scale digital data management in the science community, its applications extend to the social sciences and humanities as well.

“The pioneering work on the Roman de la Rose is a perfect example,” he said. A joint project of the Sheridan Libraries and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Roman de la Rose Digital Library is digitizing all known manuscript copies of the medieval French poem for study by scholars worldwide.

“We are thrilled to be heading this initiative,” said Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums at Johns Hopkins. “So much information is now ‘born digital’ that efforts like this are vital for the future of scholarship.”

In addition to the $20 million grant announced today, the Libraries received a $300,000 grant from NSF to study the feasibility of developing, operating and sustaining an open access repository of articles from NSF-sponsored research. Libraries staff will work with colleagues from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), and the University of Michigan Libraries to explore the potential for the development of a repository (or set of repositories) similar to PubMedCentral, the open-access repository that features articles from NIH-sponsored research. This grant for the feasibility study will allow Choudhury’s group to evaluate how to integrate activities under the framework of the Data Conservancy and will result in a set of recommendations for NSF regarding an open access repository.

The Sheridan Libraries encompass the Milton S. Eisenhower Library and its collections at the Albert D. Hutzler Reading Room in Gilman Hall, the John Work Garrett Library at Evergreen House, and the George Peabody Library at Mt. Vernon Place. Together these collections provide the major research library resources for the university. The mission of the Sheridan Libraries is to advance research and teaching by providing information resources, instruction, and services. The libraries were rededicated in 1998 to reflect the extraordinary generosity of Mr. and Mrs. R. Champlin Sheridan. 

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